I’ve re-watched two films recently, one was Blue Valentine and the other was Match Point. Both have their similarities and their differences, but what I got out of watching both of them is their relentless display of hopelessness in a world that can so easily be cruel as it can be kind. With these two films, words like optimism and faith are thrown right out of the window. Blue Valentine makes you lose faith in love, Match Point makes you lose faith in life.
Let me elaborate.
I don’t know whether it’s because I’m a guy, but watching Blue Valentine was extremely hard for me to get through. When I watched Dean practically on his knees, begging for Cindy to give their marriage another chance and to think about how this will affect Frankie (Cindy’s daughter), I’ve never seen someone stoop to that level of desperation only to be shut down. I could relate to Dean throughout the film. It was all about finding that cute, puppy love at first and then moving too fast only to result in a broken home. From everything that was shown in the film, I couldn’t conjure up a reason why Cindy was so cold-hearted and closed off to him. I understand that the film bounces back and forth between two very specific moments in their relationship (omitting everything in-between), so there had to have been something that made Cindy lose her trust and love for Dean. It’s just frustrating not knowing exactly what that was.
I’ve discussed this film with plenty of friends and have received a number of different opinions about Blue Valentine. The consensus surrounds the notion that Cindy isn’t being fair to Dean, who in the movie is very likable while Cindy plays an almost antagonistic role. Even though I agree with the majority, I have to do my best to face the story of the film and try to come to a logical explanation for why their marriage is crumbling apart. A lot of that logic is left to our imagination and I expect viewers to insert their own experiences to the cause of their pain. This is deliberate by Derek Cianfrance and why the movie is so powerful.
Someone I talked to expressed her opinion on the case of why Cindy acted the way she did. Her reason was that Cindy didn’t like how Dean was sort of a push-over and didn’t really do things for himself. He concentrated so hard just to make her happy and that suffocated her after time. While that does make sense throughout the film, it really does come down to the subjectivity of what women want when it comes down to the ideal guy. Was Dean the ideal guy? Not exactly. He was a high-school dropout and worked for a moving company when he first met Cindy. He wasn’t going to be buying her a diamond ring or putting a down-payment on a house any time soon. But he was charming, charismatic, and romantic and what young girl could turn that down? On top of that, Dean was generous and he truly did love Cindy, as he proved that by agreeing to raise Cindy’s daughter from a previous boyfriend (who beats Dean up to add salt to the wound).
So where did things go wrong? And how is Dean unlike any guy that a girl wants? I have a tough time swallowing the thought of what I would do if I were in his situation. Sometimes love can be blind, and in this situation that’s the case. Cindy and Dean shared a mutual high school-like relationship in the beginning, but because of Cindy’s pregnancy they were forced to grow up quickly. Maybe too quickly. But it is quite pathetic how Dean was grasping onto every last thread that Cindy offered towards the end of their marriage. I guess Cindy had a point, that being that desperate and clingy is an ugly feature. She certainly wasn’t attracted to Dean anymore, but you can’t say he didn’t try. He just didn’t try the right way in Cindy’s eyes.
Still, it’s very difficult for me not to point the blame at Cindy. Where did her heart go? When we’re watching the couple in the present day scenes, it’s clear she’s checked out of the relationship a long time ago. Did she fight then? Did she think of Frankie? Is there another man? The film rarely steps away from the two when they’re together, so how are they when they’re not in the same room? It’s sad to say, but Dean became content with everything he had with Cindy. The problem was that Cindy wanted more. And in Dean’s kiddie-foolish way, he thought reliving their past, being romantic, and acting like their youth again would rekindle their marriage. Cindy was only looking forward to a life without Dean, but allowed him to be dragged along until maybe one day he’ll just leave himself. If he would’ve just realized that things were too damaged to be fixed, it would’ve made it a lot easier for Cindy.
To me, Blue Valentine was extremely tough to watch because I felt it held a lot of weight and truth when depicting the troubled couple, acted brilliantly by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. I’m sure plenty of us have experienced something like that before, especially for someone’s first love. To Dean, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cindy was his first love. The world seems like a dark place, like you’ve fallen down a fifty foot hole and there’s no way you can climb out, when you find yourself losing your first love, and that’s why Dean would do anything to stay together with her. Cindy has been there before, she’s wiser and more experienced in the heart-break category. Also, she’s more cynical in the love-game because she understands the harsh reality of most relationships, that they eventually burn out. “Forever” is a word used by those who are naive about love. Dean was hoping for forever.
Blue Valentine makes me lose faith in love because it was brutally honest. Love is happy, sweet, and romantic in the beginning. For a lot of people, it’s the peak of their lives with their significant other. How can you top the feeling of “firsts” with that special person? You can’t. Everyone wants to live that Disney-like dream of falling in love and living happily ever after. Sorry kids, that’s not how the real world works. So six years later, we witness the inevitable downfall of Cindy and Dean. Some handle it a lot better than they did, and therefore are able to remain married for a lengthier period of time. But being married and being happy are two separate things. Cindy was truthful to herself and knew she had to move on while Dean didn’t want to mature and own up to the fact. But the film displays how all relationships are the same. Falling in love is a hell of a lot easier (and more fun) than staying in love. It’s sad, but the majority doesn’t see through the latter.
Now that I’ve expressed my loss of faith in love, I’ll go through Woody Allen’s 2005 drama, Match Point, which made me lose my faith in life. The theme throughout the film is the idea of luck. We all have talents of all sorts and there are also things that we simply have no skill in. But with anything in life, luck plays a factor. It’s hard for me to acknowledge people who don’t believe in luck, because you can’t attribute everything that happens as a clear, pre-determined path. There are things that happen that no one expects. Whether you call these things miracles, signs, or just plain dumb luck, we witness it every day.
Match Point stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers and his character, Chris, is not a very good person. Well, that’s a blunt statement, and also a subjective one, but most of what he does should be considered wrong but that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person. Well, that is all up to the part where he commits murder, of course. Okay, I’ll back-track.
Chris is a failed tennis player who simply lost his passion for the game. Whether or not his losses to the top seeds forced him to leave the sport, he doesn’t truly admit (though his friend commented that with a little bit of luck, he could’ve beaten the tour’s greatest players). He decides to settle in London where he takes up a job as a tennis instructor and that’s where he meets his future wife, Chloe. Chloe’s family is rich and although Chris is reluctant at first to all the benefits they offer, he gets used to their way of living and even accepts a job from Chloe’s father in his company.
Life is going very well for Chris. You can say he’s one lucky guy, that is until he meets Nola, a sexy American who is engaged to Chloe’s brother, Tom. Chris is very aggressive when he’s around her, glaring straight into her eyes and not being very subtle to his attraction towards her. Soon enough (and to no surprise), Chris and Nola have an affair. Now I’m not going to merit the act of an affair, but there’s a fine line when the situation arises. Like what Blue Valentine has taught, love is disposable and it’s easy to grow tired in a relationship. This is exactly what Chris goes through. His relationship with Chloe is very safe and comfortable, while Nola provides something outside of that zone: danger and lust, two characteristics that can really heighten your feelings for someone. When the affair begins, the viewer can’t help but question whether or not Chris is making a mistake.
I tried to put myself in Chris’ shoes and allow myself to figure out what I would do if I were in his situation. It’s surely a difficult one and that’s why Chris continues to lead two lives for such a long time. Love has the ability to make a person extremely weak, and in Chris’ case he was handcuffed with different emotions to the point where he was like a deer staring into headlights. Should he remain with Chloe, his wife, and lead a life of wealth, protection, and care. Or take a leap to the unknown, but more passionate relationship with Nola. Both women love him but he has to make a choice. What would you choose to do?
I kind of hate myself for saying this, but I’m not entirely against affairs. Sure, it’s a horrible thing to do and it can destroy any kind of relationship if the news leaks out, but isn’t there a reason why affairs happen? Affairs occur because the person (or people) in the relationship aren’t happy. They meet someone who offers something that their current significant other doesn’t, and it’s an incredible feeling. Maybe they just need something new and exciting in their lives instead of being content with the bland routine. Whatever the reason, it sure does focus in on how relationships are meant to falter. While many viewers hated Chris for his affair, I didn’t. I hated him when he decided to murder Nola along with her neighbor (to make it look like a random killing).
We all make mistakes. It’s arguable if Chris made a mistake by chasing after Nola while he’s married to Chloe. Logically speaking, it didn’t make sense for Chris to throw all of his wealth away for Nola, who was a big question mark. Would they move back to America? What kind of life would they lead? Would Nola ever stop being a struggling actress? Who knows if Chris or Nola would eventually find someone else they love even more. Nothing was certain. But what really pushed Chris over the edge was the news that Nola was pregnant with his baby and because of that, she threatened Chris that she’ll tell Chloe about them. In a desperate act to restore order in his life, he shuts Nola up for good by killing her. And just as the police suspected that the killings were by Chris, he catches his greatest stroke of luck that sets him free. Maybe Chris is right when he said that he would rather be lucky than good.
Match Point makes me lose my faith in life because this sort of thing happens all the time. Someone so low who takes the lives of others, just by a hint of luck, can walk as free as anyone else in the world as if they didn’t do anything wrong. Human-kind is crooked and full of lies and deceit, but this is the world that we live in. Not only has Chris murdered two people, but he’ll continue living his life with Chloe as if he did nothing wrong. You might want to believe that the guilt will eat away at Chris for as long as he’s alive, but from everything that Chris has shown us, he’ll be able to push that to the side. He’s simply lucky and there’s no other force that can stand tall against that.
But even with the everyday person living his or her life, luck is found in the most opportune times. I’m sure everyone knows a person (or a handful) who simply has great luck. I sure do. And in a way, I’m jealous of that. I don’t envy their talents or their God-given looks and personality, I envy how lucky they’ve been throughout their entire lives. Match Point made me realize how fortunate it really is to have luck by your side. There’s no rhyme or reason to how it works, but no one can argue that they’re grateful when they receive it. Unless you’re like Billy Zane from Titanic who said “a real man makes his own luck.” Sure, he was lucky he survived the sinking of the ship, but he never got his precious necklace back and he lost the girl. Oh, and then he lost all his fortune and committed suicide. It seems to me that he wasn’t quite lucky after all.